Idol unit and YOLO harbingers ATARASHII GAKKO! invaded the historic Regency Ballroom on November 8, turning a Wednesday night into the most unforgettable concert San Francisco hosted this fall. The sold-out event gathered fans across America’s west coast for THE SEISHUN TOUR in a celebration of our diversity. Singing and leaping to a bonanza of electronica, hip hop, and traditional Japanese kayokyoku oldies, ATARASHII GAKKO! left no doubt that its meteoric ascent as the wildest head turner in Jpop (or perhaps all of TikTok) this year was anything but a fluke.


Once the clock rounds 20:45, ATARASHII GAKKO! foursome SUZUKA, KANON, MIZYU, and RIN enter in their trademark school uniforms to a throb of taiko drums. Stone faced and mum, they strike a pose on the final beat that can only be described as a hybrid between a Sailor Moon transformation and the assembly of Dragon Ball miscreants Ginyu Force.

“San Francisco! We are ATARASHII GAKKO! Are you ready?”

Lead singer SUZUKA points her mic to the starstruck crowd. The spunky rockabilly intro riff to Seishun wo Kirisaku Hado cuts the tension wide open. From this moment, the ballroom becomes a madhouse. MIZYU raises the roof and rolls into a somersault. RIN and KANON trade headbanging rhymes with crystalline melodies. Fans echo the chant, “Why not survive?” in booming unison.

Then, at the top of the first chorus, SUZUKA’s right shoe flies off her foot and lands far back toward the soundboard. Completely unfazed, she finishes the song with a howl and segues into the 2018 hit Saisyu Jinrui. She nails every set piece, which includes mounting KANON’s shoulders while MIZYU and RIN spin her around. Twice.

“Where is my shoe? I need my shoe. Shoe, come back. Shoe, home is here.” During a quick break, SUZUKA’s search through the audience digs up a sneaker, a work boot, and a deceptively similar slip-on from a gentleman in cosplay (“Wait, wait.” She laughs. “Men’s size? I am ladies’ size!”). Suzuka ultimately concedes that her original seems forever lost, but she then collectedly works out, “It’s okay. Today is… no shoes!” With those words, in what has got to be the most rock-and-roll move, she peels off both her socks, hurls them into the sea of hands, and resumes the rest of the show barefoot.

Seishun literally translates to “youth” and carries in its meaning all the coming-of-age aspects of the adolescent experience. But band leader MIZYU takes it one step further with a more positive spin. “Enjoy every moment and be yourself!” She describes. This philosophy perfectly emblematizes the “seize the day” theme of THE SEISHUN TOUR, and more broadly, ATARASHII GAKKO!’s entire repertoire.

Fans enter a sugar high trance during RIN’s rap in CANDY, sending ripples across the floor as they all jump up and down. They hold their breath in awe as MIZYU and KANON snap and glide across the stage on the puckish digital single The Edge. They giggle at the robotic stiffness that vacillates between an embrace and a deflection in Suki Lie, a jazzy shuffle symbolizing relationship dealbreakers. They burst at the seams when SUZUKA and RIN begin to limbo in Fantastico, a song strung together with nonsense katakana sounds.

The choreography is downright bizarre, almost haphazard, but make no mistake that each member of ATARASHII GAKKO! is a masterclass dancer whose movements turn any stage into a spectacle. Accompanied by rainbow LEDs and smoke machines, the performance becomes an extravaganza. Pineapple Kryptonite and Tokyo Calling live up to the flamboyance, with the quartet bopping in their ouendan cheering squad trench coats as crimson beams flood the hall.

Yet despite all their charisma, they remain accessible and down-to-earth. SUZUKA lowers herself to the front row, holds hands with a couple lucky attendees, and surveys them on English words she needs to learn (“chicken nuggets”, an all-American staple). KANON professes her newfound soft spot for sweet potato fries. MIZYU recalls trying authentic Bay Area sourdough, which morphs into an ad lib tune about her adoration of San Francisco.

ATARASHII GAKKO! makes the final two songs in the main program count, first with a “Hyper School Remix” version of the chart topper Otona Blue. Lasers slice through the air. All the signature moves are recreated to a zippier discotheque tempo, from the hip snaps to the iconic head isolations to a human pyramid. Then, in the anthemic NAINAINAI about envy and self-discovery, SUZUKA climbs over the barricade, threads through the crowd, and sings from all the way in the back as a special treat for those in the last row.

It’s hard to believe how much material ATARASHII GAKKO! crams into a set that runs just an hour long. Yet, the encore manages to inject even more content to a point of overwhelming joy. Returning in their tour tees, the group knocks out the 2021 EP SNACKTIME closer Happy Hormones with ear-to-ear smiles and RIN on air bass. Free Your Mind off the same record marks the finale. Sung in a special combination of Japanese, English, and Spanish, the funky upbeat tune honors California’s multiethnic and multilingual community. As the title suggests, the wholesome gesture underscores the power of music to transcend language barriers and make every person feel seen.

Before exiting, ATARASHII GAKKO! thanks concertgoers with its “Yasume! Ki wo tsuke! Rei! Arigato gozaimashita! Geko!” dismissal salute, reminding everyone that the love truly flows both ways. The four begin to march off stage, but not before SUZUKA bends over to grab one last item.

“Present for you!” She smiles as she flings her remaining shoe.


ATARASHII GAKKO! at The Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Setlist

1. Seishun wo Kirisaku Hado
2. Saisyu Jinrui
3. CANDY
4. The Edge
5. Suki Lie
6. Fantastico
7. Pineapple Kryptonite
8. Tokyo Calling
9. Otona Blue (Hyper School Remix)
10. NAINAINAI

Encore

1. Happy Hormones
2. Free Your Mind (Spanish Version)


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ATARASHII GAKKO!:
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